Damnation Festival – Review Part 1

Leeds University 06.11.2010

What’s that you say? A review for a festival that’s over a month past? Well of course. One cannot rush these things; one must let one’s opinions ferment into something golden, approaching truth through a lens of distance. One should not rush to judgement on such and oh fuck it, I’ve been a lazy bastard, OK? Apologies to the people who wait on such things, but at least I get to write the final word on this rather splendid little shindig. And I am going to do so in two parts no less, because if it’s good enough for the Harry Potter franchise then it’s good enough for me.

For those of you who have no idea, and Christ knows we have a few of them among our readership (not you though, you’re super fucking on the ball, it’s the other guy, over there, looking at you weird) Damnation Festival is a one day indoor metal extravaganza held in the north of England where the cost of entry for a shitload of bands is the same as going to see Deftones on their own a week later. Of course as your faithful correspondent I made it my mission to go and see as many of these bands as humanly possible, or at least I did until Panic Cell came along and crushed my will to live. But more on that later.

First up on the main stage were Mutant (4), a band who every other reviewer has heaped praise upon, but whose trad-thrash snoozathon put me more in mind of workaday Status Quo than any of the legion of identikit thrash legends they aspire to be. Unfortunately I found the queue for the bar more interesting. After these it was over to the Terrorizer stage for Diascorium (8), who muddled through a muddy sound to provide the small crowd that had gathered for them with grind of the highest quality. Underpinned by the phenomenal basswork of ex-Reth man Paul Priest, they fused together a furious grind assault with lovely showy tricks and spills and were thoroughly excellent.

At this point I was looking at the stage times and wondering if I might actually get to go and see every band on the bill, and was inwardly congratulating myself for being the only reviewer who would go to such lengths to give you dear readers such an in depth account of the festival. However, heading to the third stage to see The Construct (6ish) I realised my folly. These were only the first band on and already it was impossible to get into the room more than a few metres, and the chances of actually seeing anything were zero. The band sounded a very capable if slightly derivative Cult of Luna type ‘post metal’ kind of thing, but after one song I had to make a choice between leaving or killing many many people.

So it was over to the main stage to see Panic Cell (1). It has been a month since I saw this band play, and the intervening period seems to have wiped most of it clean from my mind, some sort of instinctive self defence mechanism shielding my fragile being from such trauma as unleashed by the sight of a bunch of middle aged men who seem determined that it’s still the beginning of the last decade and that the height of musical sophistication is Disturbed and Drowning Pool. They were so bad they would even make Damageplan look good. I just managed to get mental image of the lead singer in my head and was sick into my mouth.

Back to the Terrorizer stage to see Colonel Blast (5) who I’ve heard many a good thing about, but the first thing that becomes apparent is that the sound, already poor for Diascorium, seems to have worsened the more people turn up to watch, and as they burst on to the stage with huge gusto the sound cannot hope to keep up with them. The second thing that is evident is that their new singer seems to have been brought to Leeds by way of the Mines of Moria, and his little goblin face gurns up a storm. I hesitate to say what the band are like, as I cannot tell from the mud issuing from the stage. They could be amazing. They could be terrible. Next time they come anywhere near me I shall take the chance to find out.

It’s always a good rule that the most ‘hyped’ band at this sort of shindig will inevitably be the poorest, and Rolo Tomassi (8) come burdened with enough Metal Hammer and Kerrang endorsements to make me sure I’m about to see a stinker of a show. When the band walk out, all haircuts and skinny jeans and cheekbones and white t shirts and smug youthful self satisfaction, I grit my teeth so hard I nearly sever my tongue. But then she came out. I have no idea what her name is (I could google it, but typing this sentence is easier) but she is a little bit of heaven, all shimmying prettiness and great big growling vocals. Her hips could be a metronome. She slinks and shimmies through a much better than expected set of Mr Bungle and Dillinger influenced Noisecore with occasionally annoying keyboard bits. But when they get it right it’s very much on the money, and they hit a few grooves peppered throughout their set that suggest that if they learn to step back a bit and let their songs breathe a bit they could even be destined for something more than hype. They may be depressingly hip and now, but at least they bring a good live performance and some excellent songs to back that up. Either that or I have been effectively dazzled by a pretty smile and slinky hips like the desperately depressing middle aged man that I am.

Which seems like a good place for a break in my tale. I’m tired, so are you, let’s go and watch something on the telly eh? But be sure to join me soon for more adventures at Damnation Festival.

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